Hampstead BID: King William IV landlord to pay £6900 bill after judge rules in Camden Council’s favour

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

King William IV landlord Jimmy McGrath will have to pay more than £600 owed to Hampstead Business Improvement District, a district judge ruled this morning.

In her judgment, Julia Newton told Highbury Corner Magistrates Court that while she agreed with the Hampstead publican and his lawyer Robert Griffiths QC that Camden had made an invalid bill, the council had provided the correct information by post in February.

"This provided sufficient cure, I find the levy is payable in this case," she said.

A supporter of McGrath grinned in the public gallery as the court heard the bill directing McGrath to the Hampstead BID's website didn't meet the Business Improvement District Act 2004. By law it should have details of the BID's expenditure and future spending priorities.

She also said that the website in question didn't contain the right information to satisfy the criteria either.

However a court heard that as Camden had issued a replacement bill with the right information that McGrath still needs to pay the bill. The follow-up was issued after the initial court summons, months after the initial payment demand.

During the two-hour session, she said: "The importance of providing the information is to be transparent, so that those paying the levy can see how the money is being spent. That information has not been supplied. It was stated that the information was on the website, but there was no agreement with McGrath that this was how the information should be supplied."

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She said that sending the 80-year-old the bill with reference to a web link defied "common sense and intellectual rigor," on the council's behalf. Ms Newton referred to McGrath's "computer illiteracy," which had formed part of his original argument in March.

Yet she said the errors were a "mistake" on Camden Council's behalf, and it had corrected them as soon as possible.

The landlord, who runs four pubs in north London will have to pay £642 for the BID levy and £6264.25 for legal costs, 50 per cent of Camden's total.

Speaking to the Ham&High afterwards, he said: "I thought she was going to rule in our favour. What is going on is wrong. I wasn't in the pub when it was introduced, and I'm now worried other businesses will be scared to speak out."

Mr Griffiths said they will appeal the judgment.

McGrath owes the money after refusing to pay the levy, which was brought in after a referendum of Hampstead businesses in 2016.

In the initial hearing, he said the BID was a "scam" and that he would rather go to prison than pay the sum.

"I run a community pub, we raise thousands for charities every year. What's happening with the BID is very unfair and the money could be better spent," he said.

A statement from BID co-chairs Philip Matthews and Els Bauer said: "As a result of a BID being established, businesses now pay a mandatory levy for a period of 5 years, which is collected on behalf of the BID by the London Borough of Camden - the Billing Authority

"Given the good momentum being built up in Hampstead through the BID, we are pleased that today Highbury Corner Magistrates Court has ruled against one business who wished to challenge the London Borough of Camden on the technical detail contained within the billing information.

"That said, while the court ruled that the liability to pay the levy remains, the judge did highlight an administration issue that has already been addressed by both Camden and the BID.

"We are delighted to be working with a new Executive team, appointed in early January, providing a more all encompassing level of adminstration to support the BID Manager. We are committed to delivering against the mandate set at the BID ballot - to support local businesses and help Hampstead Village to thrive. Much work has already been done and we are excited about what the BID can achieve in the coming years."